The Power of Human Partnership

Paul Knopp, KPMG Chair & CEO

Paul Knopp

Chair & CEO, KPMG

I was named Chair and CEO of KPMG on March 3, 2020, the day before HHS announced the intent to purchase approximately 500 million N95 respirators to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, 8 days before COVID-19 was characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and 13 days before KPMG mandated that its 30,000+ employees in the US work from home indefinitely. When I stepped into my role on July 1, 2020, the American public was thoroughly shaken by the pandemic, by the violence and crime, and by the tragedy and uncertainty we were facing as a nation. The moment in time was incredibly polarizing, and people were looking to CEOs and businesses to provide a level of care and information that hadn’t previously been the norm.

At KPMG, we helped everyone get their home offices set up, we upped our mental and physical health benefits, we brought in a medical expert to answer employee questions in a weekly podcast, we stood up a Pandemic Response Committee to navigate all the unknowns, we brought in societal and business leaders to provide context and calm to our people. We moved quickly and decisively, with the guiding principle that the health and safety of our people was a top priority. We invested in protocols to keep our people safe and supported and did our absolute best to reduce tension in the system by providing fact-based, timely and practical information.

We, as business leaders, can make the difference by influencing and reducing polarization and in fostering touchpoints among people from different places, at different stages in their lives and careers, and across different life experiences.

Uniquely, KPMG US runs on the power of human partnership, in service of and with our clients, communities, and people. We center our business on that partnership, grounded in our Values: Integrity, Excellence, Courage, Together, and For Better. We must have a set of shared core values in order to have confidence in the great commitments we are making to each other as partners. In order to live our values, we must create environments supportive of diversity of thought, experience and backgrounds.

We create those environments in macro and micro ways. Every day, the gaps in between our meetings are when we get to know each other as people. It is simple, and it is invaluable; it’s when we can bridge small gaps in our communities and society. It’s when we come together to volunteer at our Community Impact Day, with thousands of KPMGers finding community, together. It’s when we meet our people where we are – this past year, we piloted our Interfaith Business Resource Group to bring our people together in celebration of the different identities in which our people find comfort and peace. We expanded our Self ID so our people can share more about who they are – and so we can provide them with the benefits they need. We’ve celebrated our common Values around the world, held Courageous Conversations and coffee chats, expanded mental health support and resources for our people working in hybrid settings.

We are better when everyone is in the room; we are best when we genuinely listen to and get to know one another. The business community knows this all too well: success in the market means understanding and communicating effectively with increasingly diverse populations across identity and belief. Our employees interact with diverse clients and customer bases, and when we’re equipped to engage meaningfully this way, businesses see increased profit and success. As a business community, we’re also able to make better decisions, leveraging the increased creativity, communication, and accuracy of diverse teams.

We all benefit from responsible stewardship of the capital markets; this shared responsibility, supported by our shared principles, guides our people and our work every day. To foster innovation and growth in business and society, we strive to foster a culture that builds these types of environments to help reduce polarization.